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Records and Memories 

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Queen's University at Kingston 




Records and Memories 

. . . of . . . 






'HIS history deals more particularly with the 
Presbyterian congregation of Botany, and its succes- 
sor, St. John's United Church, though reference is 
necessarily made to some related topics. 

My main sources of information have been the 
church records. Just here the writer would like to 
express his thanks to the Session of the Thamesville 
Presbyterian Church for their co-operation, and for 
the splendid manner in which they have preserved 
some of their early record books. 

For some events and conditions in the congregation, 
a few newspapers and other publications have been 
consulted. Of some incidents I have learned by inter- 
viewing older members, or by correspondence with 
those who had knowledge of them. The writer has 
also drawn on his own memories. 

To all who responded to enquiries concerning per- 
sons and circumstances, the writer hereby expresses 
his appreciation. 

It is inevitable that into any such work, no matter 
how carefully done, some errors must creep; but I 
trust that, knowing the difficulty of the task, and my 
own inexperience in such matters, you will accept the 
work in a spirit of kindly tolerance, as an honest and 
earnest effort to preserve the history and spirit of 
our beloved church. 

Nl/ 2 Lot 9, Con. 3, Howard. 

November 1, 1941. 

CANADIAN Presbyterianism in pioneer days, drawing 
its membership and its inspiration from the old land, 
inevitably echoed the doctrinal and other differences 
which, from time to time, split the Scottish church. Yet 
this tendency, from the very outset, was modified by the 
severe conditions of a new land which compelled men 
and women of all sects and races to work together for the 
common good. 

To understand the history of Botany Presbyterian 
Church — now St. John's United Church — a glimpse of 
general church history is necessary. Rev. John Bethune, 
who labored for twenty-five years in Glengarry, was, in 
1792, the only Presbyterian minister in the new province 
of Upper Canada. Not until 1818 did the "four Williams" 
— Rev. Wm. Bell, of Perth, Rev. Wm. Taylor, of Osnabruck, 
Rev. Wm. Smart, of Brockville and Rev. Wm. Jenkins, of 
Markham — secure the organization of the Presbytery of 
the Canadas, to supervise ministers and congregations. 
Though this pioneer Presbytery unanimously agreed to 
recognize the doctrines, discipline and worship of the 
Church of Scotland, a rival organization, the Synod of the 
Presbyterian Church of Canada in Connection with the 
Church of Scotland, was formed at Kingston on July 7, 
1831, embracing the presbyteries of Quebec, Glengarry, 
Bathurst and York. Efforts to unite the two synods were, 
however, consummated in July, 1840, when the Synod of 
Canada in Connection with the Church of Scotland was 
formally organized. 

Scarcely was union achieved, however, when the great 
rift in the parent church in Scotland divided the Canadian 
organization. At Kingston, in July, 1844, a group headed 
by Dr. Bayne, of Gait, formally seceded; and on the tenth 
day of the same month this group organized the Synod of 
the Presbyterian Church of Canada — commonly known as 
"the Free Kirk." 

It was from this branch of Canadian Presbyterianism 
that the Botany congregation sprang. 

The early days, when the first settlers of Botany hewed 
homes out of the forests, have left few records. Few and 
scattered though the pioneers were, from the very outset 
they felt the need of public worship. No doubt family 
worship was held in the homes; devout families met 
together in the more commodious log houses; but as the 
settlement grew, the need for better facilities was felt. To 
participate in communion, pioneers had to journey many 
miles, on foot over rough forest trails, to Chatham or 


An old record book of the Botany School furnishes this 
motion dated, "Howard, October 27, 1845:" 

"The inhabitants of School District No. 1 United in the 
townships of Howard and Harwich met at four o'clock on 
the above day of October for the purpose of ascertaining 
the opinions of the above inhabitants as to whether the 
school house is to be opened to public preaching on school 
days or Sundays, by day light or candle light: 


"That the school house be open to all denominations of 
Christians for public preaching at all hours except during 
the hours of keeping school in said house. 

(Signed) JAMES McCANN, C'n. 


The record does not show what party or parties asked 
the privilege of holding services in the old log school, but 
the large proportion of Scotsmen among the Botany 
pioneers is significant. And the records show that by 1848, 
only three years later, the Botany congregation was strong 
enough to justify the visits of a missionary who profoundly 
influenced the life of the community. 

Born in Argyllshire in 1818, Angus McColl came to 
Upper Canada with his parents, John and Catherine McColl, 
in 1819. A farm boy in Halton county, a grammar school 
student at Toronto and later at Hamilton, and for a while 
a teacher, when Queen's College opened in 1842 he became 
a member of its first class, finishing his course at Knox 
College. He threw in his lot with the Free Kirk and on 
February 22, 1848, was ordained and inducted into its 
ministry, becoming pastor of the Free Kirk at Chatham. 

Rev. Dr. McColl was a man of vast energy and wide 
interests. In addition to his ministerial work for Chatham 
and a group of outside missions, he was examiner of 
teachers and schools for Kent and later school inspector 
for Chatham. When, on July 12, 1848, the London Presby- 
tery was separated from Hamilton, with Rev. Dr. McKenzie 
of Zorra as moderator, Mr. McColl was elected clerk. 
Through several diligent years, his faithful ministry laid 
firm and deep the foundations of the future Botany church. 

This ministry was one of hardship. The journey to and 
from Chatham was toilsome. The congregation still met 
in the old log school house. In a letter written in 1848 it is 
recorded that "Nearly all of these houses are of a most 
miserable description, cold and uncomfortable." Yet, how- 
ever long and rough the road, however dark the way and 

fierce the storm, however uncomfortable the ultimate 
meeting place, Angus McColl never flinched. 

In later years, the mission station at Botany was in 
charge of one or other of the ministers in towns to the 
south. Rev. Wm. Forest, ordained and inducted in Ridge- 
town, February 18, 1854, was the first of these. A few 
of the older members of the congregation were baptised 
by him. Rev. A. W. Waddell, inducted in the old log school 
house at Rushton's Corners, July 5, 1854, and who preached 
at Rushton's, Troy and Blenheim, helped by taking Rev. 
Mr. Forest's work at Botany on frequent occasions. A 
stained glass window in the Blenheim church commem- 
orates his services there. When ill-health compelled Rev. 
Mr. Forest's retirement, Rev. Mr. Caven, inducted in his 
place, also took up the work at Botany. 

It was about this time that the Botany Presbyterian 
congregation outgrew the old log school house, and steps 
were taken to build a church. Here is a copy of the sub- 
scription list: 

"Howard, December 29, 1857. 

"We, the undersigned inhabitants of Howard and Har- 
wich, do agree to pay the respective sums for the purpose 
of building a church to be called the Presbyterian Church 
of Canada. The said sums to be payable in two instal- 
ments, the first to be paid October 1st, 1858, and the second 
to be paid October 1st, 1859. 

John Robertson $10.00 

Wm. McKerracher 10.00 

Duncan McColl 10.00 

James Robertson 5.00 

John Robertson, jr.... 4.00 

Peter Robertson 2.00 

Wm. Simington 2.10 

James Campbell 1.05 

Laughlin Galbraith... 5.00 

Robt. McLaughlin .... 3.00 

Peter Cameron 2.10 

Daniel McKinley 3.00 

Little & McKinley 

(i/ 2 timber) 5.00 

Robert Martin 2.00 

Wm. Parson, hinges 

for gates 10 

Alex McKay 1.00 

Thomas Smith 1.05 

Daniel Leach 1.05 

James Quigly 


Robert Winter 


John Hamel 

Dugal Clark 


George Ellet 

James Ellet 


Daniel McKerracher.. 
Peter Best 


James Thomson 

William Anderson .... 
Daniel McKerracher.. 

Archie McBrayne 

John McMullin 


Duncan McMullin 

James Leitch 



Mrs. E. Campbell 

Adam Burch 


John Atkinson 


Rev. Wm. Forest 

Robt. Alexander 



Richard Baxter 1.00 Wm. Moore, 2 days' work 

Robert Brash 6.00 James Duncan 5.00 

William Watt 1.00 A. E. Pyper 20 

William Mayhew 10 Charles Grant 1.00 

James Simington 05 Mary Grant 05 

John Morrow 2.00 S. Merrill 1.00 

Catherine Forbes 05 John Sheriff 1.00 

Alex Forbes 10 D. Sinclair 1.00 

Neil McMillan 2.10 T. S. Arnold 50 

Finlay McKinley 5.00 Thomas Nichol 50" 

To the list is appended this note: 

"February 16, 1859. 
Received from Building Committee, One Hundred Dol- 
lars in part payment of Botany Church. 


D. McFarlane Robert Brash" 

Like their Scottish forefathers, the Botany pioneers be- 
lieved that school and kirk went together. So they built 
on the same farm where the school was already established, 
on Lot 23, Town Line Range, Howard, in the centre 
of the present cemetery on the south side of the Howard 
Road. On July 2, 1858, John McDowell deeded, free of 
charge, a site for a chapel and burying ground or country 
churchyard for the use of the members and adherents of 
the Free Presbyterian Church in Canada. The deed in part 
reads : 

"And provided also that said parties of the third part 
and their successors in office shall erect, complete and 
finish, a proper building for religious worship aforesaid on 
the said premises hereby granted within one year from the 
date hereof and provided also such building and premises 
hereby granted shall be used and enjoyed for the Free 
Presbyterian Church of Canada and for no other purpose 

"In witness and seal : 

From John McDowell To Alexander Dick 

Ann (X) McDowell Daniel McKinley 

Mark John Robertson 

The architect was Squire George Young. These men 
were empowered to procure estimates. The contract was 
let to Peter Walker, who lived on NV2 Lot 5, Concession 3, 

The contract called for a frame building with shingle 
roof, lath and plaster on the inside and lap siding on the 


outside; 1^-inch whitewood flooring, tongued and grooved; 
single door in rear and double door in front ; eight windows 
with circle top, clear glass; whitewood seats, the back and 
seat parts to be of one single board each. 

Material and lumber for a panelled pulpit at the far end 
of the church was a gift of Mr. Young, Sr. The minister 
ascended a stair of three steps, opened a door with a brass 
knob to let himself in, and, sitting on a red-cushioned seat, 
left only the top of his head visible from the pews. Below 
and in front of the pulpit was the precentor's box. He, also, 
had to open a door to get in. 

This arrangement of pulpit and doors continued until, 
on March 2, 1891, the Board of Managers recommended 
"that the pulpit be remodeled to more modern style." But 
to many old timers that old pulpit, with its queer, awkward 
arrangements for getting in and out, is a vivid and happy 

Contracts in those days were stiffly drawn and stiffly 
enforced. The contractor, Peter Walker, was forced to give 
a bond that he would finish the church by a certain date. 
He had the building almost completed when the trustees 
asked him to suspend operations one afternoon for a church 
funeral. Walker very flatly told them that he was under 
bond, and would not stop work for that or any other reason. 
So the funeral was held in the Methodist Church across the 
road, while hammers and saws, busy on the still unfinished 
Presbyterian Church, furnished a queer obligato to the 

The Botany Presbyterians now had their church. They 

also confronted the 
task of raising funds 
to pay the church debt 
— a small amount, by 
present day standards, 
but a heavy burden in 
a community where 
farm products were 
plentiful but money 
was scarce. One of 
the first expedients 
was the staging of a 
large social or picnic. 
A Botany man who 
was present thus re- 
corded the event — in 

The Old Church 



"The Botany Picnic, June 5th, 1860. 

It's of a picnic party that I am going to speak 
Which came off in Botany on Tuesday of the week, 
On the fifth day of June, as most of folks do know, 
The people round for twenty mile to the festival did go 
In the Presbyterian Church for the finishing of the same 
That was the object thus desired by the people there who 

At three o'clock the doors were open, the people in were let, 
And soon the tables were surrounded with good dainties set. 
The tables there were noble set with the choicest of the 

The waiters then their places filled, the cakes around did 

The kind of cakes the chairman said, before the meeting he 

did close 
I hope now will not be amiss to repeat them if I choose. 
Big cakes and little cakes and cakes both high and low 
With sugar candy on the top that looked as white as snow. 
Round cakes and square cakes and tarts that helped their 

The women there that made them indeed are excellent cooks. 
When tea then was ended, A. McKellar in the chair 
He made a short speech, then called upon the choir 
Who were ready at the call, a tune they did sing, 
They sang so well together, they made the church all ring. 
The Rev. Mr. Forest addressed the people all, 
Then for Rev. Mr. Waddell, the chairman he did call, 
Who spoke then to the purpose as always he doth do. 
He seemed interested and the people with him too. 
The Rev. Mr. Straigth for his speech was called next, 
He made a long speech but didn't take a text. 
The Rev. Mr. Walker whose words did soundly fall. 
The speeches then were wound up by the Rev. McColl. 
The Hon. chairman, though first is now last, 
He spoke most altogether of the bounteous repast. 
A vote of thanks was given to all the waiters there 
Who acted their part most nobly, themselves they did not 

And also to the choir, they a long way did come, 
A vote of thanks was given for the service they had done, 
And votes of thanks were tendered to the reverend gentle- 
men each 
That had an opportunity that day to give a speech, 
And next unto the chairman, A. McKellar, M.P.P., 
A vote of thanks was given as in this case should be. 
The meeting now was over, the people went away. 

I know they were all satisfied with the proceedings of the 

If there should be another I think they'd go again. 
I remain, yours truly, Cornelius McBrayne. 

Howard, Sept. 17th, I860." 

Mr. McBrayne, one of the early pioneers, lived on Lot 7, 
Block Concession, had a primitive sort of printing office, 
and wrote — and published — several poems relating to the 
early pioneer life of the community. 

It was Rev. Mr. Caven who started the first Session 
book which gives us the names of the first members of 
Botany Presbyterian Church: 

"Wm. Mowbray Mrs. Sarah Cotter 

James Thompson Mrs. Dickson 

Mrs. James Thompson George Young 

Mrs. Laughlin Galbraith Mrs. George Young 

Mrs. Mary McMillan Agnes Young 

Mrs. Robert McLaughlin Eliza Young 

John Little Jessie Young 

John Robertson, Sr. Laughlin Galbraith 

Mrs. John Robertson, Sr. James Robertson 

Mrs. Peter Cameron Mrs. James Robertson 

William Edwards James Winters 

James Robertson, Sr. John Robertson, Jr. 

Mrs. James Robertson Mrs. John Robertson, Jr. 

Duncan McMillan Daniel McKinley 

Mrs. William Smart John Atkinson 

Mrs. Catherine McColl Mrs. William Martin 

William McKerracher Mrs. James Sampson." 

These were the officially recorded founders of the 
church, but in no great time there were numerous additions 
to the roll. 

It was during Rev. Mr. Caven's oversight of the charge 
that the first Session was appointed — a joint Session for 
the three congregations of Botany, Thamesville and Indian 
Lands. The first appointment was made for Thamesville 
in the home of Wm. Staniforth on June 25, 1866, with Rev. 
Mr. Walker and Rev. Mr. Caven, and Mr. McKenzie as elder, 
in charge of the meeting. Robert Adair and Wm. Stani- 
forth were appointed as two of the ruling elders. At Indian 
Reserve on the following day the same deputation pro- 
ceeded to the home of Mr. Henderson, where Francis Clark 
and Mr. Haining were elected elders. The latter declining 
to serve, Wm. O'Neil was appointed to take his place. On 

the evening of the same day, June 26, 1866, in the church 
at Botany, Wm. McKerracher and James Thompson were 
named elders. These six, with Rev. Mr. Caven, of Ridge- 
town, formed the first joint Session of the Charge. No 
matter where a meeting was to be held, every member got 
written notice, and the books show it was a rare thing for 
even one of them to be absent. 

Students continued to supply ; but the time for a placed 
minister was very near. As early as May 1, 1866, a 
meeting of the three congregations was held in Botany 
church "as the other two charges did not have a church 
building of their own at this early date." At this meeting 
the following resolution was carried: 

"That Botany should pay $200.00, Thamesville $100.00 
and Indian Lands, $65, toward paying for a placed minister 
to labor in the three stations, and until there was one got, 
Thamesville should pay $4 for each sermon, $3 to go to 
the preacher and $1.00 to be paid to Botany towards board- 
ing the minister." 

This agreement was made in 1866, and it is significant 
— in the light of present conditions — that Botany seems to 
have taken the lead. 

About this time a young student, John Becket, supplied 
for a period of some months. In the summer of 1867 an- 
other student, James Robertson (later the Rev. James 
Robertson, D.D., Superintendent of Missions for the Cana- 
dian West) took the combined pulpits. He has left a 
graphic picture of driving over roads "very muddy and full 
of water . . . stumps on one side, quagmire on the other" 
to preach behind a rough pine table in one end of a log 
house, separated from cooking and other domestic activities 
by a thin partition or perhaps a blanket curtain. 

The brilliant Robertson was destined for a great career ; 
but young John Becket seems to have struck a more re- 
sponsive chord in the hearts of the people. In 1867 Becket 
finished his course at college. At a meeting of Session in 
January, 1868, a petition was prepared asking Presbytery 
to allow the congregation to moderate a call ; and this being 
acceded to, a call was extended to and accepted oy Rev. 
John Becket. 


Rev. John Becket 

Botany's first placed minister 
<vas ordained and inducted on 
May 27, 1868. Then began a 
career of diligent usefulness to 
the three scattered congrega- 
tions that was to last for more 
than twenty-six years . . . years 
marked by steady progress and 
unmarred by any serious fric- 

Rev. Mr. Becket presided at 
his first Sacrament of the 
Lord's Supper on August 30, 
1868, at which, it is interesting 
to note, a new Communion Ser- 
vice, of pewter and costing $19, 
was used for the first time. 

In those early days, Com- 
munion was held twice yearly, 
usually in May and October. 
The service lasted three days. 
On Thursday was a preparatory 
service, when the "tokens" — small pieces of metal — were 
handed out to intending communicants. (Tokens were last 
bought July 28, 1880, at a cost of $4.06 including 65 cents 
postage). The great day was the Sabbath, when the 
church was always filled to capacity. On Monday was a 
sort of after-service, somewhat in the nature of thanks- 

In the old Botany church, the Lord's Table on sacra- 
mental occasions consisted merely of the white-wood pews. 
Somewhat later, on October 5, 1879, the Session appointed 
Mr. Thompson to procure white cloth and have the backs 
of the pews in front of the communicants covered with the 
same, "also to have the pews covered with the same at all 
church funerals." This custom was abandoned many 
years ago, but many of the older members can well recall 
the white-draped pews in the old church on Communion 

That first pewter Communion Set consisted of two 
plates for the bread and a pitcher and two cups for the 
wine. The service was jointly owned and used by the three 
congregations, Thamesville, Turin and Botany; and when 
Botany severed its connection with the other two charges 
on June 10, 1894, they also severed their connection with 
these historic pewter Communion Vessels. Later, on Janu- 


ary 19, 1897, on motion of J. C. Balmer and A. Martinson, 
Richard Young was authorized to purchase a new Com- 
munion Set, similar to the old one, but of silver. This set, 
no longer used, is still in good repair and in the custody 
of the writer of this history. 

In time, however, the younger generation, with modern 
ideas of sanitation, criticized the use of the common cup. 
It was even said that in the era of long moustaches, these 
drooping facial adornments would come up dripping from 
the cup, when the thrifty Scotsman would carefully squeeze 
the tip of each moustache into his mouth, so that not a 
drop would be lost. In any event, on February 3, 1916, it 
was decided to buy two trays of individual cups at a cost 
of $11.25 ; and a few years later a third tray was purchased. 

Meanwhile, the quarterly Communion Sunday had re- 
placed the old-fashioned three-day semi-annual service in 
the church calendar. This, however, is running ahead of 
our story. 

After the coming of Rev. John Becket, the Botany 
church membership grew by leaps and bounds. Starting 
with a very small membership, in ten years the church 
found itself with almost a hundred members. At every 
Communion service new members were added. People came 
long distances to service ; from McKay's Corners, from 
Northwood, from several miles down in Harwich township, 
from as far north as the Thames River. In the early days 
they walked, or came in lumber wagons ; but by the middle 
eighties the democrat was the accepted means of travel, 
and an average sized family of those days usually filled 
a democrat to overflowing. The ground where the church 
stood was about four feet higher than the roadway, so a 
carriage stand — very similar to a modern milk stand — was 
built in front of the church door, to make it easier for the 
ladies with their hoop skirts to get in and out of their 
carriages. These stands, being of wood, had to be rebuilt 
often; and this one was rebuilt for the last time on March 
2, 1891. 

In the old church in the early days the custom — in 
reverse of the present — was that the congregation stood 
up to pray, and sat down to sing. The old collection boxes 
were an interesting feature. A pair of boxes, about 4 by 
6 inches, and 4 inches deep, was mounted on the end of a 
six-foot handle, the whole being of solid walnut. Thus the 
usher, standing in the aisle, could thrust a collection box 
to the far end of a pew. Unluckily, it was not uncommon 
for someone across the aisle to get a poke with the opposite 


end of the contrivance. One of these old collection boxes, 
in a fine state of repair, is still in the possession of the 

An illuminating expense item of 1880 was 50 cents 
for a pail and dipper. The form of church service in Rev. 
John Becket's early days was much longer than today, so 
on very warm Sundays, right after the collection was taken, 
he always announced a few minutes' intermission when the 
ushers were asked to get the pail and serve cool water to all 
who were thirsty. 

The minister was provided with a free manse, which, 
however, he had to furnish. The stipend paid was $350 
per annum. This, though, was supplemented by gifts from 
his parishioners, for, though money was scarce, produce 
was plentiful. Each member vied with his fellows in mak- 
ing the pastoral visit a liberally rewarded event in the 
matter of flour, hams, potatoes, apples, and similar welcome 

The long years of Rev. John Becket's pastorate brought 
their inevitable changes. Until 1870 the Presbytery of 
London had oversight of this part of Ontario; but in that 
year the Presbytery of Chatham was formed with Rev. A. 
W. Waddell as moderator and Rev. Robert H. Warde as 
Clerk. Botany is today under the guidance of Kent 

A decade later, 1880, brought another change. The 
Indian Lands church had been popularly known as the 
Reserve Church; but the district now got a post-office, 
called Turin, and on May 31, 1880, the Chatham Presbytery 
sanctioned a change of name to Turin Presbyterian Church. 

The question of strong drink has always been a live issue 
in the church. We find that in 1870 the Synod of London 
wrote each church to ascertain its feeling in regard to a 
temperance vote in the province, as well as the number of 
total abstainers; and Botany Church was constrained to 
answer: "Intemperance is not so prevalent as formerly. A 
small proportion of the members are total abstainers." 

Another interesting milestone in church history is the 
entry for April 15, 1872: "The basis of Union and the 
resolution on the subject of Union as agreed to by the 
General Assembly, November, 1871, were read by the 
Moderator and unanimously agreed to by the Session." 
This represented a preliminary step toward the union, or 
rather, re-union, of the two branches of the Presbyterian 
Church, which came into effect a few years later. 

But the spirit of friendly co-operation which marked the 
local congregation of the Free Kirk extended to other 


denominations. In particular, the greatest harmony and 
friendship traditionally prevailed between this church and 
the Methodist Church almost directly across the Howard 
Road. Till about 1880 there was a union Sunday School. 
The choir, before the organ was introduced, was a union 
choir, and for many years N. P. Weekes, the Presbyterian 
Precentor, was also Methodist Choir Leader. Union socials 
were held, with supper in one church and program in the 
other. The originally separate church cemeteries were 
united about fifteen years ago. And the church sheds, till 
the present St. John's church was built were union sheds. 

There had always been one such shed on the corner 
directly across from the Presbyterian church. This first 
shed was so low that, when top buggies came in, a stranger 
unfamiliar with its limitations, driving into the structure 
with top up, usually emerged with top braces badly bent. 
When, in 1888, the Methodists, on whose ground the original 
shed stood, decided on additions, ground was purchased for 
$10 from Zachariah Spence and Jas. Anderson. A new shed 
was built directly in front of the old one, with another 40 
feet long between the eastern ends of the two. This new 
shed cost $136 and the committee in charge of the work 
comprised R. Young, James McKerracher, James Thomp- 
son, Thomas Cameron, Wm. Steen, Z. Spence and James 
Anderson. The committee considered the erection of a 
shed with an upstairs hall, but no action was taken regard- 
ing the hall. 

In the 90's came two events which profoundly influenced 
the life of the church. The first was the building of the 
Presbyterian church at McKay's Corners, which took from 
Botany a number of families that had always been strong 
supporters. The able and influential members thus lost 
included Alex, John and Sarah Clark, James Smith, Dr. T. 
L. McRitchie, Daniel, Duncan, John, Lockie and D. J. Gal- 
braith, Lewis Huffman, James T. Sloan, Wm. Parsons and 
Mrs. S. E. Holmes. 

In 1894 came the heaviest blow the congregation had 
yet experienced with the resignation of Rev. John Becket. 
His departure from Botany coincided with the formation of 
Turin and Thamesville into a two-point charge. It became 
necessary too for Botany to affiliate with some other 
churches, and in due time a new three-point charge com- 
prising Kent Bridge, McKay's Corners and Botany was 

Rev. Mr. Becket preached his farewell sermon at Botany 
on June 10, 1894, when the congregation presented him 


with a gold watch and chain, and Mrs. Becket with a silver 
fruit dish. He continued to serve Turin and Thamesville, 
and also acted as Moderator at Botany until they called a 
new minister; his name appearing for the last time on the 
report of Session of January 2, 1895. 

Many an eye in the Botany congregation was moist on 
the occasion of Rev. John Becket's farewell sermon. More 
than a quarter century earlier he had come, a new minister 
to a new congregation; and through the long interval, his 
life had been closely interwoven with the lives of those he 
served. He exemplified the type of old-fashioned Scottish 
Presbyterian minister immortalized by Ralph Connor, to 
whom financial gain meant little and who counted as his 
highest reward the service of his Lord and Master. Even 
to this day his earnestness has left its impress, not merely 
on the survivors of the congregation he served, but on their 
children and their children's children, and a rising genera- 
tion that never saw him still revere his name. 

No one could quite fill his place, but care was taken 
in the choice of a successor. It was not until the next year, 
after several good men had preached for a call, that the 
choice fell upon Rev. J. A. Mustard, who was inducted 
February 19, 1895. Rev. Mr. Becket took the chair, Dr. 
Battisby addressed the minister, Mr. McLean addressed 
the people, and Mr. Hunter preached. Tea was served in 
the Methodist church — always generously co-operative in 
such events — after which a program was given in the Pres- 
byterian church. Rev. Mr. Mustard preached his first 
sermon after being ordained, February 24, 1895. About 
the first duty performed by Mr. Mustard was the marriage 
of Mr. and Mrs. T. Fritz. 

Mr. Mustard rendered conscientious service during four 
years. He resided at McKay's Corners and made many 
warm friends in all three churches. It was during his 
ministry, in 1897, that the envelope system of collections 
was introduced. 

More than that, a definite start was made on the build- 
ing of a new church, to replace the modest frame structure 
which for forty years had served the community. 

A building fund had been started several years pre- 
viously, with J. C. Balmer as treasurer; and henceforth 
proposals to repair the old structure were invariably laid 
over pending a decision on a new building. That decision 
came on May 16, 1899, when, at a special congregational 
meeting, with Rev. Mr. Mustard in the chair, and Belle 
Weekes as secretary, a motion by Wm. Mowbray and R. 


Young "that we take steps toward building a new church" 
was carried. A further motion by R. Young and J. C. 
Balmer specified that the new church be built on the same 
site as the old one; and it was also agreed, on motion of 
Geo. Cameron and Mr. Thompson, that the new structure 
be a brick church, seating capacity 200, stone foundation 
and slate roof, with full basement. A building committee 
was named comprising R. Young, Thompson, Balmer, 
Steen, Geo. Cameron, Atkinson, A. McMillan, Weekes and 
D. Winter, Sr., with Belle Weekes as secretary and J. C. 
Balmer as treasurer. The committee took charge of a 
building fund which had already reached $350. 

So far, the utmost harmony had marked the proceed- 
ings, and harmony still prevailed when, a little later, a bee 
of all the men and teams of the congregation was held to 
start work. The old frame church was moved from its 
original site into A. McMillan's field just south of the 
cemetery, and a full-sized basement was dug on its original 

At the close of the bee, when the participants were 
standing around, proud that at last they had made a start 
on the new church, someone casually remarked that the 
new church would look better in McMillan's field, where 
the old structure had already been moved. J. C. Balmer 
intervened : 

"No, if you are going to change the site, we will move 
it a mile east to the corner where the Botany post-office 
is located." 

That casual comment started something, for the sug- 
gestion evoked a far stronger support than its originator 
had expected, with the result that the site question became 
the subject of a long and stormy controversy. At the 
height of this controversy, Rev. Mr. Mustard resigned, on 
October 8, 1899, and the congregation was left without a 
spiritual guide to calm the turmoil. 

At another special meeting on December 4, 1899, with 
Rev. John Mclnnis in the chair, two motions were presented. 
John Balmer and Wm. Mowbray proposed that the new 
church be built on the east corner of Lot 6, Block Conces- 
sion, on D. Winter's farm near Botany post-office. An 
amendment by Messrs. Young and Hutchinson proposed A. 
McMillan's field as a site. 

The amendment carried by a vote of 38 to 28, but with 
so close a vote, the start of the new church was delayed. 
The Methodist congregation across the road were also con- 
sidering a new church, and a union church was seriously 
discussed. This far-sighted proposal, however, came to 
nothing, and the congregation went on wrestling with the 


site question. As the controversy grew more and more 
bitter, the exclamation was not infrequently heard : "If Mr. 
Becket had been here, this would never have happened !" 

The matter was referred to the Presbytery, which ad- 
vised a new meeting of the whole congregation. On January 
2, 1900, this meeting named the trustees a committee to 
select a suitable site near Botany post-office, to be approved 
by the congregation. But it was not until April 2, 1900, that, 
on motion of John Balmer, Sr., and John Robertson, the site 
at Botany post-office was at last definitely approved by a 
large majority. 

Whatever the decision, the controversy had raged so 
long that at least some members were sure to be resentful, 
and, if the new site was more convenient for many, it was 
less convenient for others. So, at this period, many valued 
members of the church severed their connection and affil- 
iated with other churches more convenient to them. It 
was the first and, happily, the last controversy to divide 
the congregation. 

The old church is still in existence. Forty years ago 
it was sold to Mr. McMillan for an implement shed. Twice 
at least since then it has been menaced by fire. Two years 
ago a strawstack, close to the south side, was burned, but 
the church escaped. On October 11, 1941, a garage on the 
north side, with 80 gallons of gasoline, was destroyed; but 
though the old structure caught fire, volunteer fire- 
fighters saved it. "Nee tamen consumebatur" — the motto 
and the symbol of the burning bush, exposed to flames but 
never consumed, seem appropriate to this humble structure 
as they are to the great Presbyterian faith it once served. 

A deed for the new church site at the east corner of 
Lot 6, Block Concession, was given by Dan Winter, Sr., free 
of charge so long as it was used for church purposes. 

With the dispute settled, work progressed rapidly. 
Joseph Oldershaw, of Chatham, had the contract for the 
stone foundation. The stone was shipped by G.T.R. from 
Amherstburg at a cost of $14.36 a car load, plus $14.90 
freight — the freight exceeding the cost of the stone. 

At a meeting on July 30, 1900, arrangements were made 
for laying the corner stone. The date was set for August 
10, 1900. On motion of Dan Winter and Wm. Mowbray, 
Robert Ferguson, M.P.P., was invited to lay the corner 
stone, on the northeast corner, the other stones to be laid 
by Miss Sarah Ferguson, on behalf of the Christian 
Endeavor, Mr. John Balmer, Sr., on behalf of the Sunday 
School, Mr. John Crawford and Mr. John Atkinson. The 
same meeting discussed a name for the church, several 


motions being presented. Wm. Mowbray and Mary McMil- 
lan suggested St. Andrews; Dan Winter and Geo. Cameron 
proposed St. John's; Anna L. Gage and Maggie McMillan 
proposed Mount Zion. The vote resulted in a large majority 
in favor of St. John's. 

The night previous to the ceremony, a committee, headed 
by Wm. Mowbray, met at the home of N. P. Weekes to pre- 
pare a history of the congregation which was placed in a 
suitable container and, next day, deposited by Mr. Ferguson 
under the corner stone. Unfortunately, no copy of these 
interesting records was kept, and their contents must 
remain a mystery while the present St. John's Church is 

Following the ceremony, a garden party on Dan Winter's 
beautiful lawn netted $599.80 for the building fund. The 
speakers were Rev. Mr. Tolmie, Rev. Mr. Mclnnis, Rev. Mr. 
Becket and Rev. Mr. Robertson. The Methodist congrega- 
tion helped towards the success of the occasion by furnish- 
ing music in the afternoon, by finishing a great part of 
the baking, and by helping to serve supper. 

An immense amount of voluntary work was done by the 
men and women of the church in connection with the new 
edifice. They teamed the stone, shipped by G.T.R. from 
Amherstburg to Northwood; they transported sand for 
plaster from the Jack Wildgen farm; they hauled lumber, 
most of which came from the Hadley firm in Chatham. 
Thomas Atkinson, Sr., told of bringing a wagon load of 
finishing lumber, for around the choir and railing, over 
rough and frozen roads, he walking behind most of the 
distance to pick up small pieces that fell off the load. The 
figures of the building fund are worth recording: 

Received from Ladies' Aid $ 766.00 

From thankoffering 1,025.63 

By subscriptions 2,503.79 

Money borrowed 1,700.00 

Expenditures : 

Carpenter work, H. Cameron $ 542.50 

Painting, J. Jacobs 200.00 

Hardware 272.62 

Furnace, R. Watt 165.00 

Stone and freight on stone 155.02 

Sand, Jack Wildgen 9.40 

Architect 85.00 

Mason work, Oldershaw & Quelch 689.55 

Lumber, Hadley's 1,640.54 

Sundries 214.24 


The Present Church 

Robert Ferguson, M.P.P., of Thamesville, always a 
generous friend to the church, and Walter Bell, of London, 
were the largest outside contributors to the building fund. 

The opening of the new church took place early in the 

new century, on 
Sunday, Feb. 24, 
1901. The ser- 
vices are thus 
reported in the 
"Ridgetown Plain- 
dealer" of Febru- 
ary 28 : 

"The Presby- 
terians have been 
thoroughly up 
with the times 
and have erected 
a fine church. 
The new edifice 
is about a mile 
east of the old 
place of worship and is one of the most up-to-date country 
churches in the Presbytery. The church is built of red 
brick, with a substantial stone foundation. It is almost 
square, the main vestibute being in the east corner while 
the pulpit is in the corner directly opposite, with choir 
behind the minister. The place is seated similar to all 
modern churches. Stained glass windows are also of a very 
fine shape, and present a good appearance. Then there is 
a school room at one side of the building, and by opening 
the large doors it can be made part of the church. The 
vestry is just to the north of the pulpit, and is quite a cosy 
little room. In the basement is a large room to be used for 
tea meetings, etc., and a large Watt furnace which heats 
the building up splendidly. Mr. Hugh Cameron had the con- 
tract for the building which reflects great credit upon his 
workmanship. The hardware, paints, oils, etc., were fur- 
nished by Wm. McMaster of this town. 

"The services on Sunday were attended by large crowds 
and excellent music was furnished by the choir. In the 
morning Rev. Mr. Sinclair, of Port Hope, was the preacher, 
and he took his text from 2nd Peter, 1st chapter, verses 
5, 6, 7. 

"In the afternoon Rev. Mr. Jamieson, of Kent Centre, 
preached to a good congregation, and Rev. Mr. Sinclair 


again occupied the pulpit in the evening. The Sunday col- 
lections amounted to $200.00. 

'The following Monday evening a large crowd assembled 
at the church when an old-time tea meeting was the order 
of things. In the basement of the church, tables were set, 
and here all were well satisfied with the good things the 
ladies of Botany had provided for them. After everybody 
had been served an adjournment was made to the body of 
the church where a splendid program was presented. The 
proceeds amounted to $175.00. " 

An extra large bell was added to the church about 1910. 
This was the gift of the Ladies' Aid, and a good share of 
the credit goes to Mrs. Fred Weekes, then president of that 
live organization. 

The congregation had gone through all the days and 
weeks of turmoil incident to the site and building without 
the guiding hand of a minister. Four candidates, Messrs. 
Sinclair, Wishart, Marsh and Davidson, had preached for a 
call. A call was extended to Rev. A. E. Wishart, then a 
student at Knox College, but he declined. Another call was 
given Rev. D. M. Robertson, which he accepted, and was 
inducted a few days after the corner stone laying, on 
August 21, 1900. His sociable disposition, his earnestness, 
both as preacher and pastor, brought a spiritual quickening 
to the congregation. The new church was pushed to a 
speedy completion. Rev. Mr. Robertson resigned in 1903, 
and now lives retired in Saskatchewan. 

Rev. Dr. Munro was moderator pending a new call, and 
secured the services of Rev. Archie Stewart, 266 Oxford 
St., London, then a retired minister. Rev. Mr. Stewart 
boarded at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Cameron. 

Eventually, Rev. A. W. Hare received a call to the triple 
charge, at a salary of $860, of which Botany contributed 
$380, Harwich $280 and Kent Bridge $200. He was inducted 
in the Kent Bridge Church on February 2, 1904, im- 
mediately after completing his course at Queen's University. 
Rev. Mr. Hare's first baptism after he was ordained and 
inducted was that of Hugh Gillespie, son of Elder Peter 

Mr. Hare brought to his first pastorate the enthusiasm 
and energy of youth, and a special interest in young people 
and their problems. The only regular pastor to make his 
home in the Botany community, he knew its people intim- 
ately, and infused new life into the young people's organ- 
ization, which under his auspices formed a literary society 


which attracted wide notice. Active, too, in the field of 
sport, he organized the first baseball teams at Botany and 
Kent Bridge. A story is still told of the first game at Kent 
Bridge. The first batter up for the home team made first 
base; the next, George Langford, hit one down to second 
base; the man on first could not advance, so Langford ran 
to third. Rev. Mr. Hare decided then and there to do a bit 
more coaching before staging another game. 

Years before rural free delivery was introduced, this 
enterprising pastor made a practice of collecting the mail 
for the community at Thamesville and distributing it on 
his way home. 

During Mr. Hare's pastorate, the congregation met with 
a severe loss in the death of two elders, Wm. Mowbray and 
N. P. Weekes and the removal of A. Gage. All were staunch 
supporters of St. John's, diligent and active in church and 
Sunday School, and helpful and stimulating in their in- 

Rev. Mr. Hare finished his pastorate on February 27, 
1910. He was succeeded by Rev. James Annesley, who 
served from 1911 until April, 1916. 

Mr. Annesley had been associated with the Salvation 
Army in his native Ireland, but on coming to Canada 
studied for the Presbyterian ministry. His first charge 
was a mission church in Montreal. His coming to Botany 
in 1911 coincided with the establishment of a new two-point 
charge of Turin and Botany. Mr. Annesley made his home 
in Ridgetown, on Main Street East, until the Turin manse 
was completed, he being the first minister to occupy the 
new manse. There his wife passed away, leaving three 
small girls and a boy, the latter dying shortly after. Mr. 
Annesley 's sister came from Ireland to keep house for him. 
Mr. Annesley left in 1916 for Merriton, later moving to 
Hamilton, where he died. His remains were brought to 
Ridgetown by M.C.R. and a sunset service was held at the 
grave in Greenwood Cemetery. 

A story still lingers of a strawberry social held by the 
Ladies' Aid in 1914, with Mrs. Galbraith as president and 
Miss M. B. Cameron as secretary. Harry Woods, a colored 
helper on the Mowbray farm, was hired to turn the ice- 
cream freezer. The first freezer of ice cream was salty, 
the second still more salty. Investigation showed a crack 
in the freezer. The writer took the remaining cream to 
Thamesville and had A. Ridley freeze it. The president 
jocularly invited the unlucky Harry Woods, if he wanted 


any ice cream, to eat all he wanted of the salty stuff. He 
ate the entire two freezers of it. 

Rev. T. J. Jewitt was inducted in 1916, his ministry in 
Botany lasting six years. During this pastorate new steps 
were placed in front of the church, and extensive repairs 
made to the basement supports. In 1918 the church interior 
was redecorated at a cost of $175 and a like amount was 
spent in 1921 on repairs to the stained glass windows. 

In the influenza epidemic of 1919, when many were 
stricken and many homes bereaved, Rev. Mr. Jewitt proved 
a tower of strength to the congregation. 

His masterpiece of work on this field was the organizing 
of the Men's Bible Class with the following officers: 
Teacher, Rev. T. J. Jewitt; president, E. A. Balmer; vice- 
president, Jas. Brisley ; secretary, John A. Dick ; treasurer, 
Frank Cameron. So able a teacher was Mr. Jewitt, the 
vestry, in which the class met every Sunday after church, 
was taxed to capacity, and even standing room was at a 

Mr. Jewitt concluded his ministry in 1921. For five 
months, from the middle of August, 1921, to February 2, 
1922, Rev. J. McAskile, a retired minister at Highgate, 
supplied. While preaching at Turin he suffered a stroke, 
was carried from the pulpit on a stretcher, and died a short 
time afterward. During these five months Rev. Hugh 
Cowan, Rev. J. B. Townsend, Rev. R. D. Tannahill, Rev. L. 
C. Gosling and Rev. D. A. McLean preached for a call. 
Eventually, with Rev. Geo. Weir, of Ridgetown, as mod- 
erator, a call was extended to Rev. D. A. McLean. 

In contrast with some of his predecessors, Rev. Mr. 
McLean was a veteran, having been ordained into the 
Presbyterian ministry, September 17, 1887. He was 
inducted at Botany on February 2, 1922, at a salary of 
$1,800 for the two charges. An earnest and faithful min- 
ister, Mr. McLean was held in high esteem. 

Rev. Mr. McLean was noteworthy for the number of 
marriage services he conducted. A tale is told of one Scots- 
man, married at the manse, who said, "Mr. McLean, you 
will have to charge this till I see you again." Not merely 
did Mr. McLean never see the happy man again, but when 
he next went to leave home, he found his new $8 hat gone 
and a battered old felt in its place. 

It was during Rev. Mr. McLean's pastorate that the 
question of church union came up. Each congregation had 
the privilege of voting; with the proviso that if no vote 


was taken, the congregation automatically entered the 
United Church of Canada. Botany did not vote — not that 
the members were unanimously in favor of union, but 
they had vivid and painful memories of the tragic split 
resulting from the site controversy twenty-five years be- 
fore. To Dr. John Steen, chairman of the Board of Man- 
agers at that time, is due much of the credit for the skilful 
handling of a question that might quite easily have split 
the congregation. 

Rev. Mr. McLean resigned in 1928, and Rev. J. W. 
Stewart was inducted at Turin in July of the same year, 
with the maximum salary ever paid for this charge, $1,800 
— a reflection of the lush financial prosperity the farming 
community was then experiencing. During the same year 
the M. and M. fund givings reached a new high of $445. 
Mr. Stewart's pastorate in Botany was limited to one short 
year, but in that brief space his energy and enthusiasm 
contributed much to the uplift and advancement of the 
church. Originally belonging to Hamilton Conference and 
desirous of returning there, in July, 1929, he accepted a 
call to Merritton. 

A call was extended to Rev. D. A. McMillan, a native of 
Woodstock, Ontario, who had served an Indian mission field 
before coming to Botany. A young man of hope, enthusiasm 
and high courage, he held the pastorate from 1929 to 1932. 
Unfortunately his health failed, and for the last six months 
Rev. A. S. Whitehall, of Cedar Springs, supplied for him. 
Mr. McMillan had been appointed at a salary of $1,800, but 
before he left one of the worst financial depressions in 
the world's history made it impossible to raise funds on the 
accustomed scale. Mr. McMillan generously volunteered to 
accept whatever the church felt able to pay, and gave the 
treasurer a receipt in full. 

Rev. H. Bolingbroke was inducted in this charge at 
Turin church on July 2, 1932, and faced the task of carrying 
both congregations through the worst years of the depres- 
sion. With the co-operation of minister and people, St. 
John's church came out on the right side of the ledger; 
while their spiritual life was quickened by the spirit of 
co-operation and sacrifice. Mr. and Mrs. Bolingbroke will 
long be remembered for their musical gifts, and for their 
willingness on all occasions to help the choir with their 
time and talent. Mr. Bolingbroke received a call to 
Chalmers Church in Chatham Township, and preached his 
farewell sermon at Botany on June 27, 1937. 


Rev. W. M. Lovegrove came to the pastorate under some 
handicaps, in that he was the first minister to come with- 
out a call, being allocated to St. John's at the last moment 
when the minister originally called was unable to come. 
Mr. Lovegrove was in many respects what might be called 
a rough diamond, his culture being that acquired in the 
University of Hard Knocks. Not a few of his congregation 
frowned upon his secular activities of painting and paper- 
hanging, till it was discovered that these were part of an 
heroic effort to give his children the cultural advantages 
of which early poverty had deprived him. 

Mr. Lovegrove moved from Botany to Trowbridge in 
1939, and, shortly after, was killed by falling from a ladder 
while painting the manse. 

Rev. H. E. Livingstone, 
the present pastor, was 
born in County Cavan, and 
received his early educa- 
tion in Ireland. Coming to 
Canada in 1914 he went 
directly to The United 
Theological Colleges at 
Montreal, and, upon gradu- 
ation, was ordained in Pem- 
broke, Ontario, in 1917, 
after which he proceeded 
by appointment to British 
Columbia, where he served 
for six years. Receiving an 
invitation to Elimville, On- 
tario, he has served since 
in the London Conference, 
accepting a call in 1939 to 
his present pastorate of 
Turin and Botany (St. 

Harold Cameron is sec- 
retary-treasurer of the church for 1941, and Rae Galbraith 
secretary-treasurer of the M. & M. Fund. 

Willard Atkinson and family have fired the church 
furnace for many years, and are still doing this work. 

In the history of the church the name of Mowbray must 
be given a prominent place. William Mowbray, Sr., one of 
the early elders was a loyal supporter of every church ac- 

Rev. H. E. Livingstone 


tivity, and a generous giver; traditions carried on by the 
later members of the family. It is told of Elder Mowbray 
that during the sermon he always sat with eyes shut, to 
outward appearances sound asleep — but when it was over, 
no one knew more of the sermon than he did. 

Many of the Mowbrays were brilliant students, and 
their college studies, and their life work, in most instances 
took them far from Botany; but they never forgot their 
old home and their old church. On their visits home they 
usually brought distinguished company, and more learned 
and famous men and women have sat in the old Mowbray 
pew than in any other pew in St. John's. Among the mem- 
bers of the family to win distinction were the late Capt. J. 
N. Mowbray, a veteran of the Great War, later a candidate 
for the legislature, and subsequently director of the beet 
sugar industry in England; and Prof. Wm. Mowbray, an 
outstanding teacher and for many years principal of Upper 
Canada College. 

St. John's United Church has its various useful and 
helpful organizations and brief references to these may be 
in order. 


The duties of this board have special regard to the 
temporal and financial aspects of the church ; more par- 
ticularly is it their duty to obtain contributions for the 
maintenance of the local church and for the schemes of the 
church as a whole. 

The earliest official records as to such a board are those 
for 1882, when the managers were Wm. Mowbray, James 
Robertson, Thos. Cameron, D. McMillan, N. P. W T eekes, 
James Smith and James McKerracher ; the elders being also 
members of the board. The trustees for that year were 
Wm. Mowbray, John Robertson, Duncan McMillan. 

The managers at the time the present church was built 
were: J. C. Balmer, N. P. Weekes, A. Gage, Thos. Cameron, 
Wm. Steen, Geo. Cameron, P. Gillespie, John Mowbray, 
John McMillan ; with Messrs. J. Balmer, Thos. Cameron and 
Wm. Mowbray as trustees. 

The present managers are: Howard Fritz, John Craw- 
ford, Albert Savage, Glen Robertson, Thos. Atkinson, Frank 
Cameron, Frank Holmes, Archie Dick, John Dick, George 
Clark, James Morehouse, Wesley McBrayne. Trustees: 
John Dick, E. A. Balmer, Jas. Brisley. 



The Session, consisting of the minister and elders, was 
a distinctive feature of the Presbyterian Church, and is 
still such in the United Church. Its duty is to watch over 
and promote the spiritual interests of the congregation, to 
care for the religious instruction of the young, including 
oversight of the Sabbath School, to determine all matters 
touching the order of public worship, including the service 
of praise, to arrange for the dispensation of the sacraments 
and to visit members within its district, especially in 

The Session, when the congregation was organized, May 
31, 1866: for Thamesville, Messrs. Staniforth and Adair; 
for Botany, Wm. McKerracher and James Thompson; for 
Indian Lands (now Turin) , Francis Clarke and Wm. O'Neil ; 
moderator, Rev. Wm. Caven, of Ridgetown. 

Those who have served as elders of Botany Presbyterian 
Church or St. John's United Church were: Wm. McKer- 
racher and James Thompson, the original elders ; John Rob- 
ertson, James McKerracher, Duncan McMillan, W. McKer- 
racher, Richard Young, Wm. Mowbray, N. P. Weekes, 
Amasa Gage, J. C. Balmer, Thos. Cameron, Peter Gillespie, 
E. A. Balmer, James Brisley, Peter Cameron. 

The Session at the present time, 1941: E. A. Balmer, 
Jas. Brisley, Peter Cameron; moderator, Rev. Mr. Living- 

W. M. S. 

The Women's Foreign Missionary Society was organized 
in 1894 by Mrs. John Becket. Later the two societies in 
the church at large, the W. F. M. S. and the W. H. M. S., 
amalgamated, and since then the local organization has 
been known as the Women's Missionary Society. 

The W. M. S. has made for itself a splendid record as 
one of the most enterprising organizations of the church, 
its members being ever awake to the needs of missionary 
work at home and abroad. In addition to large contribu- 
tions to missionary funds, every year bales of clothing 
have been sent to Western Canada. The officers are: 

President, Mrs. Peter Cameron ; vice-president, Mrs. 
Albert Savage; secretary, Mrs. E. A. Balmer; treasurer, 
Mrs. Frank Cameron. 

The Mission Band, functioning as a junior organization 
of the W.M.S., was organized by Mrs. Bannatyne of Duart 
— a fact commemorated by its official name, the Botany 
Bannatyne Mission Band. It has been carrying on good 


work with the children, and is at present under the able 
leadership of Mrs. Malcolm Gillespie. 

Another junior organization, the Mission Circle, con- 
sisting of teen age girls, was organized by Mrs. Walter 
Lake, of Ridgetown, and has proven very helpful to the 
W. M. S. Its present leader is Mrs. Thomas Atkinson, and 
its president, Mrs. John Balmer. 



The Christian Endeavor Society was organized in the 
closing years of Rev. John Becket's pastorate, in 1891. In 
the Session's report for that year we find this note: 

''The year 1891 will be memorable in the history of the 
Botany congregation on account of the formation of the 
above society which has been productive of much good, 
especially to its members. It was organized by the pastor 
in October, 14 joining at first. At the close of the year 
it had 23 active, 12 associate and 5 honorary members." 

Though formed in 1891, the earliest record of meetings 
is October 17, 1895, when we find that Miss Edith Thomp- 
son was president and Bella Robertson, secretary. The 
officers for 1900, the last year in the old church, were: 

"President, J. McMillan; vice president, B. McDonald; 
secretary, Alice Atkinson; treasurer, Beattie Weekes; or- 
ganist, Tillie Jenner; assistant organist, Rose Baker. 
Committees were: Music, Tillie Jenner, Rose Baker, Dan 
Winter, Walter Brown; Prayer, Miss E. McDonald, James 
Mowbray, Miss Anna L. Gage, B. McDonald ; Lookout, Fred 
Weekes, Jack McKerracher, James Winter, Alice Atkinson, 
Minnie Baker; Mission, Miss E. McDonald, Anna L. Gage, 
Emerson Allison, James Mowbray, Maggie Atkinson, Alba 

At a meeting on August 30 of the same year, we find 
the topic taken by the local school teachers, Miss L. Mc- 
Culloch and Mr. R. W. Gladstone. 

For some years the society flourished, especially under 
the ministry of Rev. A. W. Hare. Residing in Botany, he 
took a keen interest, formed a literary society from its 
members, and held numerous debates, developing some ex- 
cellent talent. The benefits of this training were shown, 
alike in the careers of those who left the community, and of 
those still active in the work of the church. 

Mr. Hare's successor did not reside in the community. 
The society soon dwindled, and in a short time passed out 
of existence. 


On May 29, 1928, it was reorganized as St. John's, 
Botany Young People's Society, Peter Cameron being 
largely instrumental, while members of the Turin Young 
People's Society were present to assist and advise. The 
officers then elected were: 

Honorary president, Peter Cameron; president, Mrs. 
Glen Robertson; first vice-president, Malcolm Gillespie; 
second vice-president, Margaret Balmer; third vice- 
president, John Cameron; organist, Sylvia Brisley; assist- 
ants, Margaret Balmer, Mrs. Peter Cameron; secretary, 
Mary Holmes; treasurer, Clark Cameron; committees: 
Program, Mrs. John Dick, Peter Cameron, Sylvia Brisley, 
Mary Balmer; Social, Mary Holmes, Elaine Robinson, Clark 
Cameron, Harold Galbraith, Gladys Atkinson; Music, Mrs. 
Frank Cameron, Ethel Atkinson, Arthur Winter; Member- 
ship, Arthur Winter, Clark Cameron, Malcolm Gillespie, 
Harold Galbraith. 

The society has been not merely stimulating to the life 
of the church but has helped in many practical ways. A 
memorable event in the earlier days was the presentation 
of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in five acts by the Botany Dramatic 
Club, on Friday, January 20, 1921. Dramatis personae: 
Uncle Tom, D. M. Winter; Legree, T. Atkinson; St. Clair, 
J. A. Dick; Gumption Cute, H. Black; Shelby, F. Cameron; 
George Harris, W. Cameron; Sambo, M. Gillespie; Deacon 
Perry, Marks, G. Mowbray; Haley, G. Cameron; Eva, Miss 
M. Holmes ; Emmeline, Miss C. Filby ; Marie, Miss V. Gilles- 
pie; Eliza, Cassy, Mrs. A. Savage; Aunt Ophelia, Mrs. P. 
Cameron ; Topsy, Mrs. J. A. Dick. J. A. Dick was secretary 
of the club. This performance, at 50 cents for adults and 25 
cents for children, was repeated in several other places, and 
paid for the piano. 

The revived society in 1931 installed hydro in the 
church at a cost of $123.72, and has continued to pay for 
the service. 

Of course, the primary objective is the all-round 
development of the young people to the full stature of 
Christian manhood and womanhood. That this purpose 
has been realized is proven by the large number who have 
taken part in the Y. P. S. work and have later gone forth 
to render many useful services in various walks of life. 

Present officers are: President, Morley Cameron; vice- 
president, Mrs. Lyle Winter; treasurer, Lyle Winter. 


Always undenominational, the Botany branch of this 
society, organized in 1879, included members of both the 


Presbyterian and Methodist churches. The annual (and 
only) meetings were held alternate years in one or the other 
church. At these meetings a travelling representative of 
the Bible Society was always present, and a secretary- 
treasurer was appointed, who looked after most of the 

N. P. Weekes was secretary-treasurer from the begin- 
ning until his death, July 23, 1906, when D. M. Winter was 
given the books and assumed the job as secretary-treasurer, 
which he still holds. The term of service of these two men 
covers a period of 62 years. Cornelius McBrayne, who ran 
the Botany post-office, kept in stock bibles from the Society 
for sale, from 1879 until 1900, when the secretary-treasurer, 
Mr. Weekes, took over the sale. When D. M. Winter suc- 
ceeded, the Society discontinued the direct sale of bibles in 


In the years of the Great War, St. John's Church was 
active in Soldiers' service, and on September 12, 1919, the 
Soldiers' Service Committee gave a reception for returned 
men, when the Women's Institute presented all with gold 

The Honour Roll of St. John's Church in the Great War, 
1914-1918, includes the following who came back: 

Capt. Wm. Mowbray Lieut. James N. Mowbray 

Geo. Dell Charles Boyle 

Wilbert Atkinson Lyle Dick 

Charles Hubbell Floren McDougall 

Nursing Sister Mabel McKerracher 

The boys who went over and did not come back: 
Percy McCorvie Scott McDiarmid 

Albert Steen 


Prior to 1880 a Union Sunday School was carried on, its 
sessions being held in the Methodist Church. Since then a 
succession of able and earnest superintendents and teachers 
have conducted our own Sunday School. To enumerate all 
who have contributed to this work would be impossible; 
there is space to mention only a few of the more out- 

James Thompson, for many years prominent in church 
affairs, was the first superintendent, and his successors in 
this office were: Duncan McMillan, Wm. Steen, J. C. 


Balmer, E. A. Balmer, Peter Cameron, John A. Dick, James 
Brisley, Frank Cameron. Especially noteworthy was J. C. 
Balmer, who held the office from 1900 until his death in 
1917. He put his all into the work, and was always on hand 
at least a full hour before the Sunday School started. 

Among the devoted teachers a few demand special 
mention. The older folk still refer fondly to Richard Young, 
teacher of the Bible Class in the old church between 1880 
and 1900. Mrs. T. Fritz, who taught the Bible Class in the 
new church, for 25 years (1914 to 1939), one of those quiet 
women who always knew her lesson, still fills in on occasion. 
From 1900 to 1914, Mrs. E. B. Stewart did excellent work as 
a teacher of 'teen age boys. 

Mention must be made, too, of Mrs. Alex Dick, a leader 
in all branches of church work, but particularly in the 
Sunday School, where she taught the 'teen age girls' class 
for 25 years, and still lends a helping hand when needed. 
Not merely is she among the larger financial contributors 
to the church, but she has gone the second mile and has 
perhaps done more for the social, spiritual and moral wel- 
fare of the church than anyone who ever occupied either 
pulpit or pew. Year after year, her increasingly beautiful 
Christmas trees — even bigger and better and more beauti- 
ful since the advent of hydro — have delighted the children 
and endeared Mrs. Dick to them. In this labor of love Mrs. 
Dick was assisted, in years gone by, by a number of 
excellent helpers, including Miss Ella Cameron, Miss Janet 
Winter and Mrs. Fred Weekes. 

Sunday School officers for 1941 are: Superintendent, 
Frank Cameron; assistant superintendent, John Crawford; 
treasurer, Gordon Atkinson; secretary, James Morehouse. 
The Sunday School roll is as follows : 

Mrs. Archie Dick, beginners' class : Elizabeth Crawford, 
Helen Crawford, Bonnie Galbraith, Bobbie Peters, Gerald 
Gillespie, Jean Bedford, Nellie Johnson, Wayne Morehouse, 
Margaret Galbraith. 

Mrs. John Balmer, little girls' class: Joanne Buller, 
Mary Crawford, Margaret Peters, Dorothy Robertson, Mary 
L. Galbraith, Mary Margaret Dick. 

Miss Bernice Leggate and Ernest Balmer, small boys' 
class: Glen Atkinson, Alex Dick, Douglas Cameron, Glen 
Savage, Glen McBrayne, Claire Galbraith, Bobby Galbraith, 
Calvin McTavish, Douglas McTavish, Peter Gillespie, Neil 
Gillespie, Jim Bedford. 

Mrs. Buller, young girls' class: Shirley Savage, Nora 
Robertson, Marilyn Morehouse, Eileen Keech, Jessie Buller. 


John A. Dick, young boys' class: Ken Clark, Murray 
Clark, Gordon Atkinson, Edgar Bedford, Billie Morehouse, 
Stewart McBrayne, Allen Wright. 

Mrs. Sam Holmes, president, Mrs. Glen Robertson, 
teacher, Women's Bible Class. 

Mrs. Thomas Atkinson, teacher, Young Ladies' Class. 

Rev. Mr. Livingstone, teacher, Men's Bible Class. 


From the earliest days, Botany choir has enjoyed the 
reputation of being one of the finest rural choirs in western 
Ontario. In the beginning, it was, like the Sunday School, 
a union organization, the Methodist and Presbyterian de- 
nominations both giving their best to the service of praise. 

The first precentor was James Skakel, who served from 
1858 until the Turin church was built, when he went to 
Turin. Mary Robertson succeeded him, and was followed 
by James McKerracher. The last precentor was N. P. 
Weekes, who filled the position until the organ was pur- 
chased, at which time the Presbyterians formed their own 
choir. Mr. Weekes, however, continued as leader of both 
choirs. His remarkable work as choir member, precentor 
and choir leader, beginning before Botany church was built, 
continued over a quarter of a century. 

The late Fred Weekes, as a small boy, remembered, 
about the year 1880, the choir members gathering at his 
father's home for practice. All seated around the table, N. 
P. Weekes would strike the note on the tuning fork, and 
the resonant voices of the pioneers would pour forth the 
glorious old psalms. Choir practice was a great and joyous 
occasion for all, and the precentor was a loved and respected 
figure in the life of the church. 

At a meeting on May 15, 1883, it was moved by James 
McKerracher, seconded by Thomas Cameron, and agreed 
that the Session be asked to take a vote of members to 
ascertain their views in regard to use of an organ in the 
church. The vote, taken June 26, 1883, showed 29 members 
for, 8 against. The committee to purchase the organ com- 
prised N. P. Weekes, D. McMillan, James McKerracher, 
Thomas Cameron, Misses M. Dick, Susan Cameron, Mary 
L. Robertson and Petitia Little. 

But while the organ was welcomed to the service of 
praise, the attitude toward secular music in the church is 
indicated, by a Session record of February 9, 1886: "At a 
meeting of Session in Thamesville, with elders present, 
Messrs. O'Neil, Davidson, J. McKerracher and J. Thompson, 


a request was made from Botany for the use of the church 
there for the practice of singing music, and also for holding 
a literary and musical entertainment. The Session agreed 
that the church be given for the purpose of practicing sacred 
music provided that good order be kept; but that it be not 
given for any concert or literary and musical entertainment. 
Rev. J. Becket, moderator." 

Hymns do not appear to have been introduced until 
1898. On June 28 of that year choir books and small books 
of praise were bought. In January, 1936, Mrs. Jane 
Cameron, now of Ridgetown, but a life long member of the 
church, in memory of her husband, the late Thomas 
Cameron, for many years an elder, furnished the choir with 
the new large-size hymnaries with 50 of the smaller 
hymnaries for the congregation. 

Among the choir members several were outstanding 
singers. The late Fred Weekes, who passed away in 1939, 
was for more than 40 years an excellent soloist. The late 
Will Robertson, who as a boy, had been given voice training 
and was a member of the first Botany choir, sang solos in 
the old church until 1900, when the site was moved. Con- 
spicuous among today's soloists is Arthur Winter, a young 
man with an exceptionally fine tenor voice. Mrs. Archie 
Dick is another soloist whose charming voice has frequently 
been heard, not merely in the church, but at social events 
and funerals. Among the many singers of duets the most 
outstanding were, probably, Fred Weekes and Burnett 

The piano was bought in 1921 by the Young People's 

A regular and helpful choir event is the annual oyster 
supper when the members and their families get together 
for a social evening and elect their president and secretary. 
The choir for 1941 are: President, Mrs. Thomas Atkinson; 
secretary, Mrs. Peter Cameron ; organist, Miss Ethel Atkin- 
son ; choir, Mrs. Lvle Winter. Mrs. John Cameron, Miss Mary 
Balmer. Mrs Archie Dick, Mr. John Dick, Mrs John Dick, 
Mrs. Glen Robertson, Mr. James Morehouse, Mr. Arthur 
Winter, Mr. David Everitt, Mrs. Herman Everitt, Mr. Mor- 
ley Cameron, Mrs. Rae Galbraith, Miss Mary Legate, Miss 
Mary Atkinson, Miss Marion Cameron, Mrs. John Balmer, 
Mrs. Malcolm Gillespie, Mr. Gordon Atkinson. 

The first organist in the old church was Miss Susan 
Cameron, who was succeeded by Miss Molly Dick. Suc- 
cessive organists in the new church were Miss Emma Mc- 
Donald, Miss Tillie Jenner, Miss Carrie Mowbray, Miss 
Jennie McBrayne, Miss Tena Mowbray and Miss Ethel 


The choir through the years owed much to the influ- 
ence and example of the late N. P. Weekes. In his long 
service as precentor and choir leader he helped train many 
excellent voices, and established fine musical standards and 
traditions which a later generation has maintained. What 
he was to church, choir and community is attested by ad- 
dresses from the two congregations he served so loyally and 
so long. The first, dated February 25, 1887, and signed 
by Cornelius McBrayne, John McKerracher and James 
Anderson, as committee, accompanying the presentation of 
a silver watch, declares : 

"We, the people of Botany, and more particularly the 
members of the Methodist Church, have assembled here 
this evening to show our appreciation of your services as 
leader of the choir in our church for some time past. 

"It is an honorable and responsible position to be the 
leader in singing praise to God. It is as much an act of 
worship as preaching and praying, and when it is done in 
a right spirit it is often blessed to be the means of salva- 

"And, sir, since your residence amongst us you have 
taken an active part for furthering the best interests of 
society, showing a Christian spirit in exerting yourself for 
the advancement of the cause of Christ." 

On January 23, 1889, R. Young, J. Balmer, A. Gage and 
Wm. Steen as spokesman for his fellow-members of the 
Presbyterian congregation presented gifts to both Mr. and 
Mrs. Weekes, accompanied by this tribute to Mr. Weekes: 

"We, the members and adherents of the Botany con- 
gregation have taken the liberty of assembling in your 
house tonight for the purpose of showing by some outward 
demonstration our appreciation of your long and faithful 
services as leader of the choir in our church. 

"Nearly a quarter of a century of time has passed away 
since you first assumed the duties of that office. During 
all these years you have given your time and services 
ungrudgingly. You have shown that tact, skill and patience 
which are predominantly essential in a successful leader. 
Your constant presence at your post of duty was a noble 
example to all church members. Notwithstanding the fact 
that^ the knowledge with regard to music has made rapid 
strides during that time, you have always kept in the fore- 
front of that advancement. And now, as you have seen fit 
to withdraw from the choir, we ask of you to accept this 
gift. It is not because of the intrinsic value it possesses, 
but it will be a silent reminder to you that your kindly 


services were not unheeded or forgotten by us. And to 
you, Mrs. Weekes, we would offer a similar gift." 

Worth preserving, too, is a characteristic commentary 
written in 1932, shortly before his death, by the late Fred 
Weekes, son of the great precentor and at that time the 
last survivor of the choir of 1900. 

"I think the choir is one of the main wheels of the 
church. I think it is the right-hand front wheel, next to 
the minister. Without the choir the preacher has pretty 
hard going. It is a great gift to be able to stand and sing 
praises. I think we can do much good in song. When we 
stand and sing, 'Breathe on me, breath of God, Fill me with 
life anew' or 'Lead Kindly Light amid the encircling gloom, 
Lead Thou me on' or 'There's a wideness in God's mercy 
like the wideness of the sea, There's a kindness in His jus- 
tice which is more than liberty' or 'Seek ye the Lord, while 
He may be found, Call ye upon Him while He is near,' etc., 
surely we are throwing out a little good to the other fellow 
besides good to ourselves. 

"Our choir of St. John's Church has a wonderful record. 
It is 32 years old. We have had but six regular organists : 
first, Emma McDonald; second, Tillie Jenner; third, Carrie 
Mowbray; fourth, Jennie McBrayne; fifth, Tena Mowbray; 
sixth, Ethel Atkinson. I have had the pleasure of sitting 
beside all of them, and have never had a scrap with one. 
Of course we had assistant organists all the time who 
always did their part. 

"Our choir has always helped in gladness and in sadness. 
I don't think, in 32 years, our choir has not been repre- 
sented at a funeral in our congregation. There is only one 
spoke left in this wheel that was in the choir the day this 
church was opened. This one is a little rusty, and the 
paint pretty well worn off. 

"I think we have at the present time the finest front 
row in our choir in this country. When a stranger comes 
in the church and just looks up and sees Mrs. Peter 
Cameron, Mrs. Fred Weekes, Mrs. Everitt, Mrs. Thomas 
Atkinson, Mrs. Archie Dick, Mrs. Stevens and Mrs. John 
Dick, also our good-looking young ladies, he cannot help 
but say, 'This is a prosperous and very healthy and happy 

"This wheel has run for 32 years and has never had a 
single blow-out. We have never had a member of this 
choir hung. I have never asked a member of this choir to 
sing or help in any way and been refused. I like them all; 
of course I like some a little better than the other. We 
have had some very pleasant times together. 


"I would like just now in behalf of the choir to thank 
all outsiders who helped us at different times. We have 
enjoyed them all. Also for our own minister, who has just 
put a little varnish on this wheel. I think Mr. Bolingbroke 
is the first minister that has helped us and did it willingly. 

"We have at the present time one of the best choirs in 
Howard. Ethel Atkinson, organist, is always ready and 
willing to do her part, we are very proud of her; also David 
Everitt, assistant, who never refuses to act when called 
on. We have two of the best solo singers, Mrs. Archie 
Dick and Arthur Winter. We have also the best alto line-up 
in Kent. Our tenor and basses do their best. It is no 
wonder our preacher feels like speaking when he is backed 
with this line-up. 

"Before closing I would just like to remember some of 
our old faithful members who are absent. Mrs. George 
Cameron and Mrs. Dan Winter, they are singing in a better 
choir. Also Mrs. George Balmer and Mrs. Alex Dick, who 
were always ready with their voices and tea pots. Why I 
mentioned the last two was because they sat just in front 
of me for years and I had to see that they behaved them- 
selves, especially Mrs. Dick. 

"I am glad my father did his part in the old church. I 
am not sorry I sing in this choir." 


The women of the congregation have been zealous in 
the work of the church from the beginning. Though the 
first definite record we have of a Ladies' Aid is in 
Cornelius McBrayne's poem in 1869, undoubtedly there was 
a Ladies' Aid before that time. All down through the 
years socials were held — the suppers usually in the Metho- 
dist Church and the program in the Presbyterian Church. 

In the old church Mrs. Hutchinson was secretary- 
treasurer of the Ladies' Aid for many years. In the new 
church the same office has been held by Mrs. Geo. Balmer, 
Miss M. B. Cameron, Mrs. John Dick and Miss Maggie 
Atkinson. Miss Atkinson merits special mention, having 
held the job for 25 years. The organization meets every 
month, and it is a rare occasion that Miss Atkinson isn't 
at the post of duty. As caretaker she keeps the church 
spotlessly clean. 

Since Church Union, the Ladies' Aid has been known as 
the Women's Association, but in purpose, spirit and useful- 
ness the organization is the same. For some years after 
the new church was built, summer socials or garden parties 


were held outdoors, usually on the beautiful lawns of Mr. 
and Mrs. Peter Gillespie, Mr. and Mrs. Dan Winter, Sr., or 
Mr. and Mrs. Tom Atkinson. Since, in recent years, the 
church basement has been remodeled, a new floor put in 
and stoves, tables and dishes provided, the socials have 
been held there. 

Of the many capable ladies who have held the position 
of president, special mention must be made of Mrs. Dan 
Winter, Sr., popularly known as "Tolly". She was president 
for many years, and, the church being conveniently situ- 
ated on the Winter farm, she would freely lend anything 
required for a social — so freely, in fact, that sometimes, 
the morning after a social, she had hardly enough dishes 
to get breakfast. 

The ladies pay for all repairs to the church and buy all 
new furniture, and if the managers are hard put for money, 
they can always find $50 or $100 to keep them out of the 
red. Mrs. Hugh Gillespie is president for 1941. 


It remains only to refer briefly to a few noteworthy 
events held in the present church. An unique occasion was 
the calling, by Rev. James Annesley, of the banns for the 
marriage of Delia Simington and James Morris Hepburn, 
of Saskatchewan, on January 22, 1914. While this pro- 
cedure is permissible as an alternative to securing a license, 
this is the only case on record where the banns were called 
from the pulpit of St. John's church. 

There have, however, been three church weddings. On 
June 21, 1913, Miss Carrie Mowbray was united in the 
bonds of matrimony to William R. Reek, this being the 
first couple to be married in the new church. Following 
the traditional custom of the kirk alike in Scotland and in 
Canada, this first bride to stand before the altar was 
presented by the congregation with a bible. The bible was 
later stolen. Mrs. Reek hopes it went to the right person. 

Two more couples have since been married in St. John's 
Church, Miss Tena Mowbray and Harry Sifton, in Decem- 
ber, 1921, and Miss Violet Gillespie and James Bowden, in 
October, 1927. 

Another memorable church event was the impressive 
service held by Tecumseh Lodge, A. F. & A. M., of Thames- 
ville, on St. John's Day, June 24, 1934. The Masonic 
brethren to the number of 120 gathered on the lawn 
of Very Worshipful D. M. Winter, and under the leadership 


of Worshipful Bro. Peter Cameron, W.M., marched to the 
church, and marched back after the service, when short 
addresses were given by several of the brethren. Mr. 
Winter is known to younger members of the craft as the 
father of Free Masonry in Botany. 

While many names are mentioned in these pages, the 
names of many more good men and women do not appear, 
but the God whom they served is not unmindful of the labor 
and love which they rendered Him. 

The Botany church has suffered in late years by the 
drift of population to urban communities; but Christ and 
His Church will always be indispensible to the spiritual and 
moral welfare of this community. 

Those who from present or past associations love 
Botany church, will pray that while it endures, it will con- 
tinue a Bethel, a House of God, and a gate to heaven ; that 
the homes of the community may be Christian homes ; and 
that the young people who grow up here shall know Jesus 
Christ as Saviour and Lord and as His servants live the 
life and do the work to which He calls them. 

The church, notwithstanding human imperfections, has 
been a blessing to this neighborhood, and through those 
who have gone from it carrying their Christian faith, 
principles and ideals it has been a blessing to many places 
in the Dominion of Canada and in other lands. 

"Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, 
Lest we forget ! Lest we forget !" 



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